Eulogy for A Bookstore

- by Dianne Drake

One of my favorite bookstores is closing. That doesn’t come as a surprise to the few remaining fans of books stores, because bookstores are closing all over the place. The small ones can’t compete with the big ones any longer, and the big ones are finding themselves in the same boat. Their days of competition are waning, thanks to the brave new world of publishing and all its follies and foibles. But my bookstore is closing.

I rushed downtown when it was first announced, and scooped up all the goodies I could afford at 30 percent off. Went back at the 50 percent off mark and started to feel a little melancholy, realizing that those emptying shelves would no longer be restocked. Then, I returned at the Everything Must Go! stage and saw the bookshelves themselves for sale.

It’s sad. I’ll admit it. I buy books all the time, and I’m also plugged into my new Kindle. This morning, though, I received shipment on another Kindle, a birthday gift for my son. So, I suppose that in some small way, I own part of the responsibility for the demise of the bookstore. The fact is, it’s nice to click a button and have a new book materialize before my eyes. But it’s also just as nice to spend an afternoon browsing the shelves of a bookstore, living in the culture, indulging in more fantasy worlds than most people know exist.

As a writer, I know writers, so I love walking up and down the aisles seeing which of my friends is in print this month. And I’ll admit, I love looking at the books fronted near the store entrance, and the ones on the endcaps. These are the ones being pushed to the public, and it’s always interesting to see who’s getting that shove. As well, I love the new discoveries – authors I’ve never read, topics I’ve never heard of. It’s always fun, too, to ask the opinion of the one the clerks, or engage them in a book or author discussion. They’re knowledgeable people. They’re avid readers.

Sadly though, the avid readers are reading less. That’s what the statistics are telling us, anyway. Is it true? I really don’t know, because every time I’ve browsed my favorite bookstore, it’s been packed. People are buying, usually stacks of books. Apparently, though, we’re trending away from that, and I have to wonder if, in another couple of generations, no one will remember the bookstore.

Anyway, my dilemma. Find another bookstore. Actually, I do have a second choice. I don’t know where this particular company ranks among the biggies, since they are located primarily east of the Mississippi. But in a pinch, I do use this store. So, I trekked up there only to discover that even my second favorite is struggling. At least, in my opinion it is. So, why do I say that? Because half the space is now filled with non-book merchandise, including toys and games. There were bins of old DVDs that looked like something I’d find in a flea market. Used library books for sale. And what did I buy? A couple of T-shirts. No books. They were hiding in the aisle with the stuffed animals, hard to find.

OK, so I don’t have an answer. I’m just observing what’s happening and not liking it so much. Bookstores have been important to me. I’ve spent more hours than I can count browsing them. Don’t think I’ve ever walked out of one without a book until yesterday, when I bought T-shirts. But here’s the thing, I love libraries, too, and in Indianapolis, they’re going by the wayside. We’re closing several of them.

To be honest, it’s a little worrisome. As an author, I’m spooked. But as a reader, I’m saddened. Bookstores and libraries…I never thought they’d turn into dinosaurs. Time marches on, though, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the publishing world has a few tricks up its multiple sleeves to keep us engaged. In the mean time, R.I.P. old friend. You’ve served me well. You’ll surely be missed. 

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